ARLINGTON, VA—Coming full circle, Interstate’s recently appointed CEO is bringing more than 30 years of experience in hospitality and lodging back to the organization he started his career with during his senior year of college.
“Coming into an organization with a lot of different owners, a lot of different brands—it’s a lot,” Michael J. Deitemeyer, CEO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, told Hotel Business just a few days after his first official day at the management company based here. “I’ve been 100% focused on orientation, meeting with all the key players, starting to dialogue and network with some of the owners. It’s going great.”
Coming from Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts, where he served as president for more than 13 years, Deitemeyer brings the attention of experiential travel and the role it plays in making travel special to the 55-year-old hotel management company. This mindset contributed to his decision to move on from Omni and to something new. “Part of what makes life special and interesting is doing different things—and you have one opportunity to go through that,” he explained. After Interstate approached him in November about the opportunity, he gave it some thought during Thanksgiving break.
During his time at Omni, he led efforts to place more focus on F&B and retail, while also increasing the brand’s awareness nationally. “At the end of the day, we created a culture that understood human interaction matters in travel, and how you manifest that makes a difference,” he said. Deitemeyer also helped grow the organization through multiple management roles in operations, development, sales and finance.
Omni also shaped his perspective, giving him a look into the mind of the owner (an outlook he’ll continue to deploy as CEO of Interstate, especially with owners). “I worked for an owner, and we owned the hotels,” he explained. “I understood clearly that every dollar we spent had to have an ROI associated to it, that ROI may be customer satisfaction, but everything we did, and every dollar spent was done with a purpose.”
While the majority of his time in the industry was with Omni, his first step into hospitality was with Interstate, more than 30 years ago. Contemplating potential possibilities in college, he decided to take an opportunity with a Marriott in Worcester, MA. “It was just a fun place to be,” he said. “They kept me on through my senior year in college, and two weeks after I graduated, I moved to Charlotte, NC, with Interstate.” He then moved to several other locations, including Memphis, TN; Minneapolis; and Springfield, MA. “It was a great experience,” Deitemeyer said. “I was very, very proud to be part of Interstate. I bought into the Interstate culture, which was being the best operator in the business.”
“Trust your instincts and lead with passion” is what he would tell a younger version of himself if he could, in addition to emphasizing the importance of embracing the hospitality and lodging industry, and being open to exposing himself to more. For example, now, if he ends up in a city he hasn’t been in for a while, he tours seven or eight hotels. “There’s so much growth that comes from those opportunities,” he said.
As far as what’s different 30 years later, the size of Interstate’s portfolio. From what he can recall, the management company had about 30 or 40 hotels in its portfolio when he left in 1992. Now, the company is managing around 350 properties across the U.S. “There are still familiar faces in the building here,” he said. “There are four or five people I remember, obviously in a very different capacity from back in the late 1980s, early ’90s.”
With having already completed most of his paperwork from HR, the next step for Interstate’s new CEO is to listen and consume material on the inner workings of the management company—specifically with regard to its functionality and organizational structure.
As far as properties, he’d like to see more momentum from Interstate in the full-service hotels and resorts space in 2017; he also acknowledged the company’s success in the select-service market, where he foresees additional growth opportunities. He also projected expansion efforts in the U.K., other regions in Europe and elsewhere.
Interstate’s favorable reputation as an operator is something he expects to continue and enhance as its leader. For him, culture and how a company interacts with its associates matters. “Engagement, above all other things, is what defines an organization,” he said.
A company adds value to itself when it invests time in training associates to interact with guests; it distinguishes itself from the rest of its competitors in the market. “There are a lot of organizations that don’t do it successfully,” he explained. “I think there’s additional opportunities to continue to push that. At the end of the day, we’re a management company, so we’re as good as our associates that touch our customers are.” HB